Wednesday, February 01, 2012

New Order: The Factory Years

Certified rock legends New Order’s first five studio albums, also their five sole records for the long-defunct Factory Records, were bona fide masterworks that have never been bettered by the band since they were originally released. While their latter-day albums for London Records were stately, polished-to-a-fault affairs, they certainly didn’t possess the same sort of artistic resonance as their predecessors. The Factory era also engendered some of the band’s most enduring singles, like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘True Faith’, ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and ‘Temptation’. These Factory works were remastered and reissued a couple of years ago (each augmented by a supplementary disc of classic non-album singles and vintage B-sides and remixes), and it is immensely worthwhile to have a brief gander at each of these masterworks and assess their indisputable merits.




MOVEMENT (1981)
A rather hesitant debut, coming after the dissolution of Joy Division, New Order’s previous incarnation, this still contains some promising tracks, and displayed a restrained authority that would fully blossom later. ‘Senses’, ‘Doubts Even Here’ and ‘Dreams Never End’ are all prototypical exercises in the burgeoning synth-pop genre, but the songwriting still needs some necessary structural improvements. The bonus disc contains two early New Order classics: the competent guitar-rocker ‘Ceremony’, and the deathless fan-favourite dancefloor filler ‘Temptation’.




POWER, CORRUPTION AND LIES (1983)
A real tour de force of a sophomore album, comprising some real crackers: the band also wisely infused a much-needed sense of humour into the proceedings. The propulsive, forceful ‘Age of Consent’, the blissful electronic ballad ‘Your Silent Face’ and the intentionally ramshackle, jangle-pop-influenced ‘Leave Me Alone’ are all confirmed New Order standards that benefited from more dynamic production values. The almighty technological wonder ‘Blue Monday’ and the synth-string-driven ‘Thieves Like Us’ are the bonus-disc highlights.




LOW LIFE (1985)
Riding high on the career-breakthrough high of the previous effort, ‘Low Life’ features more usage of electronics, and the bass lines also became more inventive and animated. The sweetly poppish ‘Love Vigilantes’ opens accounts, with the epic synth-pop masterpiece ‘The Perfect Kiss’ following. There are also moodier tracks like ‘This Time of Night’ and ‘Sunrise’ to leaven the upbeat mood, and ‘Elegia’ is a superior slice of instrumental electro-pop. The intensely cinematic extended version of ‘The Perfect Kiss’ and the rudely danceable ‘Shellshock’ are the standouts on the bonus disc.




BROTHERHOOD (1986)
A rougher-sounding proposition than ‘Low Life’, this still ranks as a proficient work that sets new hights for the band. Of course, the synth-pop classic ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is the indisputable highlight, but other things like ‘Paradise’ and ‘All Day Long’ are also potent in their own ways. In terms of bonus-disc standouts, ‘Brotherhood’ contains arguably the most realised, archetypal New Order single, the powerful, highly assured chart-bound single ‘True Faith’, alongside other stonkers like ‘1963’ and ‘Touched by the Hand of God’.




TECHNIQUE (1989)
The final album for Factory thankfully has the band firing on all cylinders, making for one hell of an exit. Merging their basic, unique dance-rock template with a healthy dose of the then-burgeoning Balaeric house music craze, the band produced a remarkable endeavour that successfully captures the cultural zeitgeist of the late 80s. The collective authority of standouts like the high-energy acid-house stomper ‘Fine Time’, the percolating dance-pop number ‘Round and Round’ and the melodic riff-rocker ‘Run’ cannot be denied, while ‘Love Less’ and ‘All the Way’ show that the band can still rock out whenever they want to. The goofy but loveable 1990 World Cup anthem ‘World in Motion’ is the sole noteworthy track on the bonus disc.

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